Dawn at Spotsylvania

May 12, 2020 – 156 years since the attack on the Mule Shoe Salient/Bloody Angle during the Battle of Spotsylvania

The sun’s brightness felt blinding as I climbed out and headed east, then took the trail northwest to get to the Federal side of the lines. A herd of deer nibbling within yards of Bloody Angle, looked up in surprise and eyed this human intruder warily; then deciding I wasn’t too scary…went back to eating.

Moving through the woods, the play of light and shadow produced brilliant contrasts. This was no cloudy or foggy morning on the historic anniversary.

The stillness and silence seemed a little eerie. True, the birds sang, trilled, and chirped, but behind their cheerful attempts: vast silence.

It was about 6:20am when I arrived. Late! Even calculating out daylight savings time, I was about 45 minutes after the step-off moment for the Federal II Corps beginning their advance. If I believed in ghosts, Barlow would have been haunting me and berating me as a lie-a-bed straggler. However, I think coming at the later time on this day worked better for safety and following NPS rules.

What reflections appear in this puddle on the trail? I stopped to wonder and look. Only the shadows came back.

After sitting near the Landram House for a while and reading from the Official Records, it was time to cross the field to the Confederate lines. Are the clouds forming columns in the sky?

The clouds started blocking the sun’s brightness, silhouetting the trees and monuments at The Angle.

Time moves on. In the silence, with the brilliant light, overhead in the mocking clouds. Just whispers of the fight remain—traces of the earthworks, monuments to those who killed and were killed.

But on the day, near the hour, a few come back to remember.

7 Responses to Dawn at Spotsylvania

  1. Sarah, your beautiful prose and photography belie the horrors that took place there. Perhaps they redeem them in some degree. (Bruce Catton wrote that “The region around the Bloody Angle offered the most horrible sights of the war. In places, the trenches held corpses piled four and five deep…”)

  2. Was with Hancock at the Landram House from 1-3 pm and almost considered meeting the Corps staff for breakfast. And yes, I’ve seen the geese aligned with Meade’s and Gibbon’s assault formation in the skies above the Slaughter Pen Farm in the early afternoon of Dev 13th

  3. Beautiful words. I’ve taken similar walks on several battlefields over the years. It always amazes me how such beautiful, quiet and serene places could have been the scene of such horrible carnage.

    And yes, I’ve seen the “ghosts”…

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